Have you ever popped out of the subway in an unfamiliar neighborhood and gotten completely lost? Did you walk confidently in the wrong direction or try to use your mapping app to give you some orientation?
Allison McGuire developed a walking habit when she moved to Boston from car-centric Los Angeles and noticed there weren’t any reliable online tools for the purposeful walker who likes to explore cities. Fueled by her frustrations, she decided to take matters into her own hands and develop Walc, an app that uses landmarks to help you navigate through all five New York boroughs.
This Fulton Center member is now filling a need in the market with a walking navigation tool. When it comes to running the company where she serves as the CEO, each day is full of hustle and bustle.
“It’s madness, really,” says McGuire. “Every week is the craziest week of my life. I just returned from 21 days on the West Coast doing investor presentations, team huddles, acquisition meetings, and mentor conversations.”
Despite the challenges, she’s committed to the success of her company, which she recently launched in New York City. Read on to learn more about the “most rewarding, frustrating, challenging, fulfilling, and difficult job” she’s ever encountered.
WeWork: Where did you grow up, and how did you get where you are now?
McGuire: I grew up in Los Angeles in the entertainment business. For many years, I was an actor. In fact, I obtained a degree from Boston University’s theatre conservatory.
While in college, I worked for MassEquality and caught the political bug. After working for a U.K. Member of Parliament, I moved to D.C. to pursue a career in politics. While in D.C., I worked in national security and human rights policy.
Following frustrations around the intransigence in Washington, I pivoted to working in technology, where I saw real progress being made. I discovered Network for Good, a social good tech company, and began working for the company, discovering a new world of innovative problem solving.
WeWork: What inspired you to start your business? And why did you want to start one in walking?
McGuire: Growing up in L.A., I drove everywhere. Moving to Boston for college was a shock in many ways—not just the weather! I didn’t have enough income to take the T everywhere, so I developed a walking habit. While living in London and D.C., the habit grew into an addiction, as I saw it was the best way to experience a city.
Thus, my app idea of real-time, crowdsourced walking directions was born. I took this idea to a Lean Startup Machine boot camp and pitched it amongst 30 other ideas. I was the number one pitch. After working on the idea over the weekend and talking with hundreds of people about their need for better walking tech tools, I realized I was on to something. I worked nights and weekends developing a minimum viable product, built a website, and began manually plotting out people’s experiences of city streets.
Once I got my first commitment of investment capital and met Daniel Herrington—an engineer who could architect the app and who jumped onboard as my co-founder—I quit my job, moved to New York, and it’s been a whirlwind since.
WeWork: What has been your biggest mistake so far, and how did you recover?
McGuire: All of my biggest mistakes have occurred when I’ve ignored my intuition. I don’t regret any of these experiences, but I do pay much more attention to how things feel and make decisions based on trusting that impulse. Specifically, I had an employee who I knew wasn’t going to cut it. Instead of ending the relationship immediately, I delayed, hoping the situation would change. In the end, this person did leave, but the whole process took far more energy and time than necessary.
WeWork: Was there anything you wish you knew before you started out?
McGuire: Building and running a company are full of contradictions. It’s the most rewarding, frustrating, challenging, fulfilling, and difficult job. Jet setting, fundraising, and innovation are far less glamorous than the media makes it look.
WeWork: What’s your favorite drink to start or end the day?
McGuire: Starbucks’ Trenta green iced tea. No added water and no sweetener. I drink one every morning. It’s the size of my head.
WeWork: How long have you been with WeWork and what as your experience been like here?
McGuire: Walc has been with WeWork since July 1, 2014—almost a year! We love it here. It has been, by far, the best investment I’ve made in our company. Between the network of audacious, gregarious entrepreneurs to the resources available and opportunities provided, WeWork has been a huge part of our success. The Fulton Center community management team is incredible and has made us feel at home since day one.
WeWork: What are the next steps for your company?
McGuire: We’ve been fortunate to have pitched and won McDonald’s Innovation in Transportation Challenge, BMW Ventures’ Future of Mobility Competition, and WeWork’s Demo Day. We’re also growing our team and will be doubling then tripling in size over the summer, so big things to come.
Photo credit: Lauren Kallen